Writing Power’s Links to Love: March 2

I hope you are having a great weekend. Enjoy this week’s links!

7 Reasons My Life is More Fulfilling | My Super-Charged Life: Realigning the definition of “happiness” and “success” is a great way to start any week. In addition, Jeff writes in a appealingly enthusiastic, energized tone. His blog’s title, “My Super-Charged Life,” is apt.

Review: On Writing Well | Life Optimizer: Zinsser’s book is helpful indeed, and it’s not one that we hear about in the blogosphere as much as some others. Check out this review if you’re interested in learning more. (Note: yes, I noticed it too. Donald misprints the title of the Strunk and White book in his post. But I still liked the review. No one’s perfect.)

10 Ways To Make Time For The Important Jonathan Mead: How do we fit in working on our writing when we have all of these other things to do? Jonathan Mead has an answer (ten, in fact).

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Hack Your Writing By Reading

Writing and reading are two sides of the same very large and complex coin.

When you write, you think of your eventual readers (even if the only reader will be you). When you read, you place yourself in the writer’s hands. That’s why you often feel delighted if you like a piece of writing: it is as if the writer has given you a gift. Conversely, when you’re confused by something you read, you feel that the writer hasn’t taken care of you.

You can learn a lot about writing by reading with a writer’s eyes. Here are some ways you can use reading to improve your writing:

1. Read with a pen or pencil in your hand. As you begin to read with a writer’s eyes, you will probably notice all sorts of things about what you’re reading. You might notice, for example, a novel’s opening strategy. Some novels have great beginnings, while others might leave you cold. Exploring a novel as a reader-writer – an active reader – rather than a passive reader will likely spur all sorts of responses to the piece.

You may be familiar with the practice of highlighting books from your student days. When you’re reading with writer’s eyes, however, you will want to put the highlighter down. Why? Highlighting a section doesn’t tell you why that section is important. The only way to discern what was important is to read the highlighted section again. And when you do, you’re often left scratching your read: it’s easy to highlight any section that seems remotely important without much rhyme or reason.

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Avoid These Common Idea Killers

The idea-gathering stage is a magical place, full of imagination and inspiration. I haven’t met a writer yet who doesn’t relish the free flowing ease that the term “invention stage” connotes. Invention is fun. This attitude may be partly to blame for the planning stage’s bad rap. As we transition from invention to planning, we think, well, invention was great while it lasted. Now, the fun’s over. It’s time to get to work. Sigh.

But is invention as easy as we like to think? The purpose of the invention stage is to discover all the things that are available to say about a given topic.

I suspect that writers think of invention as easy because they stop gathering ideas when they don’t feel like gathering them anymore. In the other stages, however, you can’t just declare a stage complete. If you only have half an outline, for example, you can’t say that you are finished with the planning stage. Similarly, if you don’t have an introduction, body, and conclusion, you’re not finished drafting. So why should you be able to stop inventing if you get stuck?

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Guest Post For LivSimpl

I wrote a guest post for LivSimpl, a blog that focuses on achieving happiness through simplicity.  If you haven’t ever read it, I hope you’ll check it out.

My post is entitled – what else –  “7 Ways to Simplify Your Writing.”  I hope you like it!

If you’re visiting from LivSimpl, welcome!  Writing Power provides daily tips and tricks to help you write better and live better.  Please take a look around, and if you like what you read I hope you’ll subscribe to Writing Power’s RSS feed.

Cheers!

Loren

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Join Writing Power’s Writers’ Circle!

Writing, like exercise, is something many of us want to do more regularly. Just as we hope exercising will improve our fitness, we hope writing will improve our communication skills. Exercise also has less tangible benefits like improved mood and increased energy. Writing, too, can nourish our spirits and expand our life’s beauty.

A person could even adopt the same types of motivational strategies to both writing and exercise: start gradually, do a little bit each day, choose a format that is fun for you…

Interestingly, the strategy that many people find most helpful when starting an exercise routine – exercise with a friend – applies to writing particularly well. That’s why I propose that we start our own Writers’ Circle here at Writing Power.

Why start a Writers’ Circle? As I have said before, writers write. To work on your writing – indeed, to be a writer – all you have to do is write. But as with many things in our busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time to dedicate to writing. Without some accountability, it’s easy to defer writing projects (and defer them, and defer them…). Our Writers’ Circle will, I hope, give you some incentive to work on that writing.

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A Quotation From Robert Louis Stevenson

“The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

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How (And Why) To Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is a powerful tool that allows you to do two important things simultaneously.

First, it provides a mechanism by through which you can include the ideas of other people. No writer writes in a vacuum. You’re always writing for others to read, and often, you’re writing in response to ideas you have read. Paraphrase is an elegant way to incorporate those ideas and thus enrich your writing.

Second, paraphrase maintains your unique writerly voice. When you include another writer’s words directly, as in quotation, you are letting their voice take over your work for a short time. This practice’s drawbacks may not seem obvious when thinking about a single quotation. But often, writers do not stop at one quotation: they need many quotations from several different sources. One thing leads to another, and before you know it your paper is an open mic night, and you’re the emcee. Shouldn’t you be the main act instead?

A beginning writer does not know how to quote and paraphrase effectively. An intermediate writer often knows how to quote. But an advanced writer will prefer paraphrase because of its flexibility. Experienced writers want to be able to craft their own sentences, even if the ideas behind them come from a source.

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Maximize Your Writing’s Efficiency Through Reflection

So, you have a writing task to complete. You have diligently applied your favorite idea-generating strategies: brainstorming, freewriting, looping, and idea mapping. If your writing task is in a professional context, you may also have notes from meetings with your boss, clients, or colleagues. If you’re writing in an academic context, you will likely have an assignment from your teacher or professor. A lot of writers tend to skip from the idea-gathering phase to an outlining process. Other writers tend to follow idea gathering with a rough plan – a quick list, perhaps – and then proceed directly to drafting (If this describes you, you may enjoy my planning ideas for the anti-outliners: Don’t Outline — Strategize!)

But dashing from the invention phase to the planning phase without a period of reflection may not be the best course of action. You have an important set of decisions to make between the invention and planning phases. Of course, I am not advocating a sustained period of naval gazing. I stand by my earlier assertion that writers write. But in order to write well, and in order to establish habits that will help you to write better, it’s useful to remember the value of reflection. Reflection makes it easier to write mindfully, and writing mindfully is writing productively. Continue reading

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Writing Power’s Links To Love: February 24

 Enjoy this week’s great links!

http://lifelearningtoday.com/2008/02/08/the-seven-steps-to-simplicity/ A lovely take on simplicity.

What makes you come alive? | Awake At The Wheel | Personal Growth | careers | entrepreneurship | health & happiness  If you want fire-in-the-belly, go-big-or-go-home, you-only-live-once type of advice, this is the place to go.

Decimate Those “Someday” Projects with Triangulation at LifeClever 😉 Tips for Design and Life  I love the idea of “creative triangulation” – it gives a geeklicious twist to the creative process.

Online Resources that will Improve your Vocabulary and Grammar  at Dumb Little Man.  A nice round-up of resources.

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Make Your Writing Walk The Talk

Holly was staring at the page frowning, her brows knitted together in thought.  That wasn’t a good sign.  Then she smiled, which was an even worse sign.  “You have some good analysis and interesting claims in this article, but there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the way you present your points.  I’m sorry, but it looks like you’re going to have to rewrite the whole thing.”

I had asked for an honest opinion, all right.  I mean, what are grad school friends for?  But rewrite thirty-five pages before the journal’s deadline?  That was crazy talk.

With the submission deadline looming, I asked her to read my article again a few days later.  After about twenty minutes, she tossed the draft on the desk.  In a tone of mock irritation, she said, “So, you definitely took my advice.  The argument is completely different, and much more focused.  The question I have is, how did you manage to rewrite the whole thing in a week and still teach, work, sleep…?”

This time, I was the one smiling.  “Actually, it only took about three hours.  I hardly rewrote any of the paragraphs at all.”

She raised her eyebrows.  “You must be delirious from sleep deprivation.”

It was true.  My article had gone from a jumbled mess of points to a cogent argument in a few hours.  I did it using a simple technique that any writer can employ.  It’s called the “says and does” technique, and it can help you get a handle on even the most out-of-control pieces.

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